Lecture: Democracy without citizens’ trust is unsustainable, says scholar

Published: March 31, 2012

" Pakistan has a resilient society and the gaps between potential and performance can only be bridged through improved governance," East-West Centre Governance and Democracy Initiative Asia-Pacific Director Shabbir Cheema. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

The government’s efforts to improve human development have failed due to the lack of vision and absence of long-term planning.

This was said by East-West Centre Governance and Democracy Initiative Asia-Pacific Director Shabbir Cheema at a lecture on “Governance for human development” organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday.

“Weak governance is responsible for persistent poverty and lagging human development in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the country needs continuity of the democratic process, strong civil society, hard economic decisions and increased internal revenue generation to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, the government’s efforts at improving human development failed due to the absence of competence and commitment from political and bureaucratic managers, he said. The strong feudal culture that influences governance in the country did not help matters either, he added.

“Democratic governments cannot survive if they do not build and sustain the trust of citizens, which is difficult to build and easy to lose in this age of information,” he added.

He said a governance crisis is evidenced by widespread corruption, inefficient public services and a host of other failures.

Cheema said Pakistan’s poor rating on the World Governance Indicator (WGI) and Human Development Indicator (HDI) reflects that Pakistan needs to take drastic steps to improve governance and the welfare of its citizens.

Weak governance in Pakistan is constraining its ability to cope with core social and development issues, namely sustainable economic growth, poverty eradication, education, health, water, energy shortages and radicalisation of the society, Cheema stated. He said that now, broader concepts of governance identify three sets of actors — the state, civil society and the private sector — that coproduce governance.

For the first time, he said, actors from all state institutions now want democratic processes to continue and an elected government is likely to complete its term.

Cheema said that currently, Pakistan has several opportunities for change in the form of a vibrant civil society, open and free media, rising independence of the judiciary, huge resource base and individual entrepreneurship that can be utilised to ensure human development.

Cheema also indicated the external factors and powers that had been playing a key role in Pakistan’s current situation, adding that the endgame in Afghanistan will have major impact on Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2012.

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